The text of the preaching is below, followed by links for more information.
A Homily for Sunday of the Fourth of July Weekend
14th Sunday in Ordinary time, July 5, 2020
The first reading today from the Prophet Zechariah, articulates the deepest needs of our hearts when it says that one day, chariots and bows will be banned, and there will be peace to all the nations.
Today we might say bombs and tanks, and guns, rather than bows and chariots, will be banned – but the human longing for peace is the same. We, like them, want to rejoice heartily, but it is not possible, at least right now.
As someone else said recently, the “undisguised brutality of our time weighs upon us.” It could be the undisguised brutality of the COVID virus, which is taking both old and young away from us, locking us into isolation, ravaging our economy. Or it could be the more literal brutality of racial violence and murder of citizens by the police.
I recently read the following passage:
“We know that the acute sorrow we feel after such a loss will run its course, but also that we will remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may come to take its place, even should it fill that place completely, it remains something else. And that is how it should be. It is the only way of perpetuating a love that we do not want to abandon.”
These words could have been spoken today, by the family of a COVID victim. But in fact, they were written by Sigmund Freud in 1918, after the loss of his daughter Sophie, to the flu pandemic. How poignantly they echo the pain of so many thousands today, trying to deal with inexplicable loss. Those who have lost a loved one know that the loss can never be adequately replaced.
But the same words could have been could have been spoken by the families of George Floyd in Minneapolis, or of Eric Garner in New York, or of Tamir Rice in Cleveland. In a way, the losses of these families are even worse than death from a virus, because they are the result of violence, poverty, misconduct by police – who are supposed to protect us. And of course, behind all of that, hatred and racism.
And the hurt doesn’t stop there. This violence has hurt all of us, black and white alike. It has caused a wound which has festered for centuries but which now, perhaps, we are beginning try to heal.
I was struck by the second reading which urges us to live in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. And yet today, flesh is what it is all about; feverish flesh, flesh struggling to breath, black flesh beaten and bruised, white flesh flushed with anger and range (and, I hope, embarrassment and shame). Our fleshly selves are what is on the line today, but the funny thing is, in order to save our flesh, we must cultivate the Spirit. It is the spirit of love, of hope, of faith, of compassion, and especially of listening that is our challenge today.
I have become more aware in the last few weeks that as a white man, I have not done a very good job of listening. I am convinced that much of the injustice and inequity we experience is because certain people, especially those who have some power and privilege have not been listening, because they didn’t think they had to.
And I don’t mean only people of great power and privilege, those who were born with much and got even more because of wealth, incredible education, family ties and open doors. I mean even those of us (including me) who did not grow up with much, who had little or no family background of higher education or professional life, but who did have at least one important door opened for them which enabled them to find some success, some power, some influence.
Whether we have benefitted from privilege or not, let’s commit ourselves this 4th of July to listening to each other. Let’s each commit to finding someone very unlike us – racially, economically or socially, and engaging in an honest conversation about our lives, our hopes, our disappointments and our hurts.
And as we celebrate the Eucharist, from here on out, let us offer those conversations to God, and pray for his promised peace, and for the chance to rejoice heartily, together, once again.
For More Information:
Here is an excellent article by Sr. Beth Murphy, OP
And two documents from the US Catholic Bishops:
- Statement of U.S. Bishop Chairmen in Wake of Death of George Floyd and National Protests
- Open Wide Our Hearts (from 2018)